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VINCE CARONE’S TOP 5 COMEDY ALBUMS OF ALL TIME

If you are unfamiliar with Vince Carone’s style of comedy lets describe him as a simple man, with simple ideas, to keep the rest of us crazy bastards from ruining this party called life.  

Outspoken, brash, and unapologetic Vince isn’t afraid to speak his mind even if it might offend a few listeners. This begs the question what does Vince put into his brain to inspire such controversial work. Here at Rooftop we answer all the tough questions, so here is Vince Carone with his top 5 comedy albums of all time.  The floor is all yours Vince:

 

 

Doug Stanhope – Beer Hall Putsch

 

Doug Stanhope holds the title when it comes to poignant, relentless, non-apologetic, in-your-face humor. His ability to thrash through topics with his blunt opinions is second-to-none. One of my favorite things in regards to his comedy is the sheer quantity of it. Not only do I thoroughly appreciate his stand-up, I also greatly appreciate the fact that he continues to deliver fresh material every year or every other year. Beer Hall Putsch is his latest comedic assault that encompasses bits that other comics wouldn’t go near. Listen to his tale of truth regarding his mom’s suicide and then tell me that you’re afraid to try one of the new bits that you thought of. This is one-hour of non-stop genius writing that only Stanhope could pull off. This album is what stand-up should be!

 

Richard Jeni – Greatest Bits

 

Richad Jeni is a rare find in the comedy world. He is a comedian that every comic knows, but yet, you ask the average person who he is and unfortunately you’re left going “Jim Carrey’s friend in the movie The Mask”. For a man who had 4 TV specials between Showtime and HBO, he never became the household name that he deserved to be. Richard Jeni had natural comedic timing and knew how to milk a bit for everything it was worth. In his Greatest Bits CD you get to experience Richard Jeni delivering all of the fan favorites. This CD is special for me as I remember listening to this with my family growing up and just laughing together – generations spanning from me as a kid, to my parents, to my grandparents – we all laughed and then really got a treat when we got to see him live in 2003.

 

Bill Burr – Let It Go

 

Right out of the gate on this CD Bill Burr goes into a rant on why he’s “pro swine-flu” and the laughs just don’t stop. I’ve been a ranting comedian for years and then I watched Bill Burr and it made me wonder why I even try. As comedians we like to hold our pride in high regard and don’t always give credit where credit is due – but I want to go on record saying that every time that I heard Bill Burr go into his bit about “Being a Mother”, I am nothing but jealous that I didn’t think of it or anything like it. To be able to take a topic like that and beat it down to the point of saying (I’m paraphrasing) “women give being a mother too much credit” and have the ladies in the audience cracking up, takes an extreme talent…and that’s what Bill Burr is, an extreme talent.

 

Dennis Miller – Black & White

 

Ok, so I know this isn’t on a CD – but I did own it on VHS which ought to count. This is my absolute favorite material that Dennis Miller has come out with. It took me a long time when I was younger to catch on to Dennis’ cadence with his delivery, but once I got it, I got it big time. Anytime that I quote Dennis Miller, I find myself defaulting to his opening bit here regarding impressionists that always paint Jack Nicholson into mundane situations: “can you imagine if Jack Nicholson were a produce clerk at a grocery store?” ‘No, f*ck you, YOU I can imagine as a produce clerk at a grocery store, now let’s not take the world’s highest paid actor and have him spritzing a bag of turnips for $2.95 an hour’. Dennis has been dubbed “The King of Pop…Culture” and this release is proof on why. I watch this knowing Dennis was only a few years older than I am now when he recorded it and he was light years ahead of me as a comedian.

 

George Carlin – It’s Bad For Ya

 

George Carlin is my favorite comedian of all time (with Doug Stanhope in at a close second) and I really enjoyed this final album of his. I run into Carlin fans that tell me how they loved his early stuff but he got too angry for them as time went on. I ended up on the opposite end here; the more angry and cynical that Carlin got, the more I liked him. This CD is a 70-year old comedian exploring the thought process that only somebody with that much life experience could produce. I love listening to the bit about questioning societal norms such as: taking off your hat. The casual listener hears that and thinks that Carlin is bitching about a hat…but if you listen, it’s just about removing the “control” in this country and not conforming to stuff that doesn’t make sense just because people before you and around you accept it. Carlin is a comedic prophet (a term I’m sure he’d hate), he really teaches as much as he entertains. Carlin’s comedic method is what got me into comedy, what has kept me in comedy, and what I will always strive for. Question everything, accept nothing, and remember “It’s all bad for ya”.

 

Have fun and enjoy the ride!

Alvin Williams Interview

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Rooftop has yet another hilarious release for all your giggling needs: Alvin Williams, I Hope You’re Happy.

Rooftopper Nathan Timmel talked to him about the disc.

Read on!

NT: Where did you record your disc, and why did you choose that location? Is it a special venue for you?

AW: I recorded the album at Tacoma Comedy Club. It’s a phenomenal club and the audiences aren’t uptight or afraid to laugh about subjects that tend to be controversial in some regions. Plus it’s a huge venue so you can really feel the laughs reverberate when you’re onstage! There is something special about the city of Tacoma in general. Seattle gets all the love and sometimes people who live there tend to rag on Tacoma. Not sure why, I mean you all share the same airport, be cordial. It’s a blue-collar town that doesn’t always get the respect it deserves and that’s something I believe most of us can relate to in this industry, which in my opinion is why I’ve always had some of my best shows there because I feel like I connect with them really well.

NT: Do you prefer traditional comedy clubs, theaters, or, do you have a favorite type of venue that doesn’t include either of those?

AW: I’m a comedy club guy. If you look at my tour schedule that’s pretty much all you’ll see on there at any given time. I’m a natural homebody so to speak, so I like being settled in one location for an extended period, and by extended I mean a week. I really like gradually easing into a new setting, and getting to know the area where I’m performing. The sites, the people, restaurants and movie theaters. It keeps me on my toes and I will never be complacent, because just when you get comfortable it’s time to pick up and leave for another city to do it all over again! I’m at a point now where none of the areas I perform are new to me anymore, so I’m really comfortable in most places and I feel like that reflects in my shows.

NT: Was it a one-shot take, or is it a series of shows edited together?

AW: This album was recorded over a 2 day stretch of shows.

NT: You use personal segues to talk about pop culture, and vice versa. Overall, would you describe your comedy as personal, observational, a mix of each…

AW: Truthfully? I never know how to answer that one. Comedy comes from everywhere. When you talk about pop culture, often times you can make it personal, because they’re just people like you and I. But when you’re talking about something personal in your life, isn’t it still observational? I can’t really describe myself too well. I just see myself as someone who can relate to damn near anybody on some level. I know I’m funny, I just have to convince you within the first two minutes and we’ll be good!…So I guess “a mix” to answer your question?

NT: Do you feel you’re more a storyteller or setup and punchline kinda guy?

AW: I’m a storyteller by nature. You can probably tell because every question you ask me could have been answered in about a third of the amount of words I use, but I’m working on that I promise! I steer clear of comedy competitions because the comics with the shorter jokes do better, and I’ve learned I’m not as funny when I have to rush. I’ve found my groove in long form jokes. I figure it gives the audience more chances to laugh that way!

NT: You cut your teeth in Chicago—how do you feel the comedy scene is there?

AW: What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I truly cut my teeth in the Pacific Northwest. Mainly Idaho & Washington. I’m from Chicago but when I started doing stand-up I was living in Boise, ID. I have since developed a strong performing relationship with my hometown and now I can say with full confidence that it is a great scene. I’ve been welcomed with open arms and given the same treatment as someone who never left the city. Which is something you don’t hear about in other big cities. I Love performing back home!

NT: Any Los Angeles or New York aspirations in the future?

AW: No. I’m from a big city and I love performing in big cities, but I live a super quiet life in Denver and I’m happy! I’ll take that over fame any day…Why’d you ask, did an agent ask about me???

NT: One thing I have in common with you: we both moved often as children. I take it comedy was a coping mechanism for you? Describe how you feel having moved often shaped you as a person, and comedian.

AW: Moving was always a positive thing for me. I got used to it after a while and I learned to love it. Every place was an opportunity to meet new people, and that’s the attitude I take when I’m on the road. I love traveling and I love meeting new people. Now if you consider money a void, then yes I am definitely filling a void. I wish I could fill it more! Otherwise I do comedy for two reasons: One, I have the ability to make people forget about their problems, even if it’s only for a little while. Two, I don’t have a boss or an alarm clock. When one of those changes I’ll probably reconsider this whole thing. But until then, I’m still enjoying the trip!

 

Buy I Hope You’re Happy in the Rooftop Shop.

Alvin Williams Top 5 Comedy Albums Of All Time

Alvin_Williams_forblog Alvin Williams looks to deliver some cheer to the world with his new stand-up comedy album I Hope You’re Happy.  Alvin is constantly traveling to entertain audiences in comedy clubs across the country, and sometimes things can get a little stressful for him out on the road.  So we asked him to list the top 5 comedy albums that bring a little joy into his life when things on the road get tough, and he happily obliged.  So here is Alvin Williams with his top 5 comedy albums.

 

Eddie Murphy – Comedian

Eddie Murphy is my all-time favorite comic.  I wish he would have done more specials but considering his jokes are still hilarious 30 years later, I don’t blame him. My dad used to take me on a lot of road trips as a kid, and he would always buy tapes from the clearance section of video stores.  I found this one, he bought it, and the rest is history.  Still one of the most memorable road trips I ever had.  We listened to the album 3 times!  Everything that Eddie talked about I could relate to, and his impressions were so perfect!  I still can’t look at Mr. T, Ricky Ricardo or Ralph Kramden without thinking of this album.  A must-have even now!

George Carlin – Napalm & Silly Putty

First and Foremost, I think all of George Carlin’s albums could have been my Top 5.  To me he is the best comedic writer the world has ever produced.  He can do anything with any subject and any audience.  I chose this album because it was the first time I had heard a comedy album without an audience.  I’ve always wanted to do one of these myself, but I would probably need to put out 50 years of genius first before people would buy it, soooo….I’ll wait.  Carlin’s genius is on full display in this album, and I appreciate it even more because it’s like he’s going over the written jokes in a notebook before he has to convert them to an audience-friendly presentation.  That’s the way we all really want to present the joke, in its purest form.  Every time I hear it I feel smarter!

Jerry Seinfeld – I’m Telling You For The Last Time

I love Seinfeld’s work, because it’s laugh out loud funny, but also clean.  When I think of the perfect set, this one comes to mind.  I heard it on audio first before I saw this performance on HBO.  I was in high school when I first heard this and it was the first time I heard a comic and went “That’s EXACTLY what I was thinking!  I thought it was just ME.”  He’s the gold standard in mainstream comedy that appeals to everyone and this album is a testament to his hard work.  Plus I love the concept of “retiring” material and never using it again.  I’ve tried to retire material but sometimes I’m on the road and a joke is WAY too perfect not to use.  Kudos Jerry, hope you do another one soon!

 Chris Rock – Roll With The New

Chris Rock is the guy I tried to model myself after:  Be funny AND have something important to say.  His social commentary is so spot on it just blows my mind how somebody can be that funny and that socially relevant all at the same time!  I’ve watched all of Chris Rock’s specials but this is the only album I owned.  I actually bought it because of the Champagne Song.  SO FUNNY.  Watch the video on your lunch break and it will be stuck in your head the rest of the day!  Also, this album has the best bit to end all bits:  Not sure where this publication is being sent, so for the sake of not being censored, I’ll just say it’s the bit where he differentiates between the various types of black people. :)

Dane Cook – Retaliation

Dane Cook in my opinion was a victim of his own whirlwind success.  He’s viewed now as if he was this all-energy but no substance comic, and that’s the furthest thing from the truth.  I think over time it just became cool to not like Dane Cook.  But I was always a Dane Cook fan and I cannot deny the influence this album had on me.  My college roommate had this playing in his car and it reminded me of when I first heard the Eddie Murphy Comedian album.  Playing the tracks over and over again.  This is the album that made me want to do stand-up.  Not just a fantasy of being a comic, but actually getting on a stage and DOING it.  This album was perfect.  PERFECT.  I still tell stories “Tarantino Style” in my everyday life because of this album.  It’s just BETTER that way!  I hope that 20 years from now people won’t be jealous of Dane’s rapid success and appreciate the body of work he has put forth.  Anyway, if you’re just a Dane-hater but you’ve never heard him, this is truly worth a listen!

Trey Galyon’s Top 5 Comedy Albums of All Time

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Trey Galyon has just released his comedy album “The Moronic” here at Rooftop Comedy Productions. Trey’s stand-up chronicles his life in a very observational though objecting way. There’s a lot wrong with the world and Trey will speak on it with clarity and focus, weeding out the worst of what he sees and giving it hit after hit, punchline after punchline. He’s a man with high standards and his list of his Top 5 Comedy albums of all time makes a whole lot of scents. Pass us the good stuff Trey!

Ok, Here are my top 5 comedy albums in no particular order…

Dave Attell – Skanks for the Memories
Love this album! Attell is so quick and funny. This was one of the first albums I bought after I started doing comedy and I still listen to it regularly. Who hasn’t mumbled ‘yeah, but them titties ain’t retarded’ about a bazillion times?!! Go see him live! So much fun watching him work

Patrice O’Neal – Mr. P
Patrice’s only CD and it is retarded good. Patrice is one of those guys I watch and say, ‘yeah! That’s what I’m trying to do with my comedy’. He’s so honest and has an incredible way of explaining things. The first 20 minutes of this CD are non-stop laughs and ‘White Women are Pleasant’ has made me laugh out loud on the subway about 3 dozen times. Unfortunately you can’t go see him live, so get ahold of everything of his you can. The Comedy Central special ‘Elephant in the Room’ is just as good!

Bill Burr – Why Do I Do This?
Bill Burr is one of my favorite guys out there right now. Everybody loves him for the Philly rant which is really awesome, but his actual standup is even better. That opening ‘Pedophiles’ bit will drag you right into his world! Fun all the way thru, and then closing it with the ‘Muffins’ bit is perfect. Check him out live also!

Bill Hicks – Dangerous
I started comedy in Austin, TX and when you start comedy in Texas you learn about Bill Hicks VERY QUICKLY. He was one of a kind. You can feel the honesty and passion in his voice. One amazing thing is that all of his political material, even though it was written 20 years ago, is still relevant today. Rant in E Minor and Arizona Bay are great to. I picked Dangerous because it’s his first album and a nice intro into the world of Bill Hicks

Bill Cosby – Why is there Air?
Cosby is my favorite of all time! ‘Himself’ changed my life! Everybody has a favorite Cosby album and everybody is right. I picked ‘Why is there Air?’ because my grandparents had that album and it brings back a lot of great memories. Go see him if you get a chance! You can watch him do 2 hours and it feels like 30 minutes and you’ll want more when he’s done. He’s the master!

There you go. Those are my favorite comedy albums right now…

Buy my album, or buy one of these!!!
And go see some live comedy!!!
It’ll change your life, man!

Thanks Rooftop Comedy!!

Matt Knudsen’s Top 5 Comedy Albums of All Time

In celebration of Matt Knudsen’s latest album release American we decided to dig deep into the comedic actor/stand-up comedian’s brain, to find out what triggers his funny eardrums.  Check out Matt Knudsen’s list of his favorite comedians currently making the rounds, and his top 5 comedy albums of all time. Take it away, Matt…

Before I get to my 5 favorite albums of all time (Household names at this point), it’s worth mentioning some of my favorite people that are currently out there killing it. For your enjoyment and in no particular order, check out:

Kyle Kinane, Myq Kaplan, Zach Sherwin, Henry Phillips, Rory Scovel, Sean Patton, T.J. Miller, Kumail Nanjiani, Nate Bargatze, Jarrod Harris, Rawle Lewis, Jackie Kashian, Eddie Pepitone, Howard Kremer, Reggie Watts, Matt Braunger, Andy Wood, Beth Stelling, Kate Berlant, Paul Danke, Cornell Reid, Aparna Nancherla, Emily Maya Mills, Doug “DJ Dougpound” Lussenhop, Johnny Pemberton, Brody Stevens and The Grawlix boys. Great. Great!

OK, so…

5. I’m Telling You for the Last Time – Jerry Seinfeld

I’m not sure if this technically counts as an album, since it was an HBO special that was released on iTunes, but Jerry Seinfeld is the master of word economy. I heard shim say in an interview that he’ll spend all day trying to turn 8 words in to 5. Seinfeld knows better than anyone that the quicker you get to the funny part, the better. This is the special where he retired the act that made him famous before starting over from scratch and as such, Telling You, is chock full of the Seinfeld classics. Cab Drivers – “Yes officer, his name was Amal and then the symbol for boron.”

4. A Place for My Stuff – George Carlin

I love George Carlin so it was difficult to pick a fave but A Place for My Stuff was really memorable for me. In addition to straight stand up, he also has these great sketch pieces recorded in a studio. Even at the top there’s an announcement, “This album has been made possible through grants from the following organizations…” and goes on to list hilarious/non-existent entities. After that he goes to live stand up with the opening joke, “Hey, have you noticed that you never seem to get laid much on Thanksgiving? I think it’s because all the coats are on the bed.”

3. Let’s Get Small – Steve Martin

There are only 2 things that all comedians have in common; a microphone and a stage. That’s it. Stand up comedy really just requires those 2 things. So when a guy decides to don a white suit, put an arrow through his head and play the banjo that comedy exists on a completely different stratosphere. Steve Martin played the clown prince better than anyone and Let’s Get Small is full of classic bits that I still quote all the time. “I am so mad at my mother. She’s 102 years; she called me up the other day and wanted to borrow 10 dollars for some food.” This album is also the birthplace of the national catchphrase, “Well Excuuuse Meeeee.”

2. The Buttoned Down Mind of Bob Newhart – Bob Newhart

Buttoned Down mind was released in 1960 during an era of comedy where a lot of comedians were performing the same jokes. Not writing their own jokes and then performing them night after night, literally telling the same jokes other comedians told all over the country. Bob Newhart was working as a full time accountant and Warner Brothers had to set up shows for him because he had never performed stand up at a club. 2 weeks after his first time on stage, he recorded this seminal album. It went on to knock Elvis Presley off the #1 spot on the billboard charts, is the 20th best selling album (not just comedy) of all time and is currently archived in The Library of Congress. The patient pauses, the controlled stammering and letting an audience use their imagination to fill in the picture were groundbreaking. Newhart made the crowd come to him instead of vice versa and this album has the classics, “Driving Instructor,” “Marketing the Wright Brothers,” and “Nobody Will Ever Play Baseball.”

1. Himself – Bill Cosby 

All hail the king. I really don’t know what else I can say about Cosby that hasn’t been said a million times before but there is a reason that every comedian from every walk of life name him as their favorite, myself included. I had Bill Cosby’s cassettes that I used to listen to on my yellow Sony Walkman and would be beside myself with laughter. Let’s face it; we all know Junior Barnes is a gunky. But with “Himself”, it was the first time I ever saw Cosby performing the things he was saying and it made me enjoy it even more. Sitting in a chair. A chair. Owning it. This album is also a very clear template for The Cosby Show. “The reason we have 5 children is because we do not want 6.” I mean come on. Also, a lot of people don’t know this but Cosby and his wife produced everything (Jemmin Inc.) so he always maintained the rights to all of his material. Even on the business side of show business he was years ahead of his time. If you’d like to see how comedians regard Cosby, watch him spending time with Jerry Seinfeld in the documentary Comedian. That pretty much sums it up. I had the privilege of seeing Bill Cosby perform live about 6 months ago. He did almost two hours. He still sat in a chair. He still owned it. “Dad is great. He gave us chocolate cake.”

REVIEW: Ron White “A Little Unprofessional”

A Little Unprofessional DVD cover photo

Ron “Tater Salad” White is back with a brand new special, and fans of the venerable, cigar and scotch soaked Southerner will not be disappointed. For almost ninety minutes, Tater Salad riffs on food, pop culture, Vegas, sex, Dr. Phil, and sex again in his signature blue collar drawl. Seriously, for a man that became famous touring on the family friendly Blue Collar comedy this special is hilariously filthy. While I would say, “A Little Unprofessional” isn’t going to bring any new Tater Salad fans to the table, it’s definitely a funny addition to his catalog. But also what do I know? “A Little Unprofessional” is nominated for a Grammy for Best Comedy Album, Tater Salad’s third nomination.

Nathan Anderson Interview

In 2012, comedian Nathan Anderson had an idea. Standup memes were floating around the Internet, but without structure. With the popularity of the website reddit skyrocketing, Anderson decided to create a centralized location for undiscovered comics to post material. People could get a quick laugh, and unknown comics could get exposure.

/r/standupshots, a subset of reddit, was a success. Comics saw their jokes going viral; some were reposted by George Takei on Facebook (5,000,000+ followers and growing), and some (like yours truly, a big fan of the outlet) had some jokes go viral, and others make it to The Huffington Post.

Unfortunately, Anderson wasn’t happy.

Using the meme format he championed with his creation, Anderson delivered a scathing review of the very site hosting his handiwork, seen here.

With that post, something interesting happened: his post made it’s way to the front page of reddit, garnered tons of exposure, and /r/standupshots exploded in numbers, currently topping 100,000 subscribers.

Rooftop used same-named comedian Nathan Timmel to discuss all things meme with Nathan Anderson.

NT: When you left, it didn’t look like burning a bridge, it looked like a demolition. How long at the idea of walking away from your creation been growing in you?

NA: I always knew I wanted to get away from it somehow. It was never something I really cared about; just something I set up because I was the one who knew how. Regardless of the subreddit, mods burn out eventually. Doing it well turns reddit into a full-time job for no money, subject to constant criticism. It was cutting into my real passion – telling dick jokes to drunk bachelorette parties.

NT: /r/standupshots popularity and visibility really increased because of your post. Do you feel this is a situation that went from negative turned positive, or do you believe the same problems exist that made you leave?

NA: I knew it would get some visibility, and in the short term it was definitely positive. But reddit has a short attention span, and the larger problems with the site remain publicly unaddressed. If those don’t change, reddit won’t die and may even grow slowly. But in terms of cultural relevance, it’ll turn into another early-decade web fad like somethingawful or 4chan.

NT: Any thoughts of returning?

NA: Only as a lurker, and only to look up specific information. Reddit is a huge site, so the fact that /r/funny sucks doesn’t mean /r/malefashionadvice or /r/fitness can’t be useful. It’s my go-to site for information on shoes.

NT: What sort of feedback have you received?

NA: Comics understand and supports me, even if they don’t post to the site. Those are the people I care about. There’s a few career moderators on reddit who are pissed at me, but they’re dicks so fuck ‘em.

NT: You were worried that fewer submitters would kill the site, but with your post there are more submitters and subscribers than ever; how do you feel about that?

NA: I’m glad it worked out. It’ll be fine as long as it keeps expanding, but it’s like a shark. If it doesn’t constantly pull in more people, they’ll move on to something else.

NT: Steve Hofstetter described the group as “An open microphone with 100,000 people in the audience.” Even without posts making it to the front page, do you think there could have been value in comics posting for other comics; a place for peer feedback on jokes?

NA: It definitely has value for that, and long as comics are willing to sort the useful comments from the typical reddit jackassery. I just hope comics realize that a joke that does well on standupshots still has to do well onstage. The karma is nice, but it doesn’t mean anything if no one laughs in real life.

NT: You understood the power of the meme, and joked it was the future of comedy; do you feel it is the present of comedy now?

NA: It depends on when and where you are. If you’re a broke college kid, or living in a town without access to stagetime, it’s more useful than doing nothing. But I always felt the final goal was getting people to watch videos, or come to real shows. For comics, internet pictures shouldn’t be an end in themselves.

Scott Long: Good Dad, Not a Great Dad

“Scott

In November 2013, Rooftop Comedy put out Scott Long’s 2nd Comedy CD, Good Dad, Not a Great Dad.

On December 31st, Angie Frissore graded it an “A” for Under the Gun Reviews, stating: “I’ve listened to and reviewed 52 comedy albums in 2013, but Scott Long’s is probably the one that touched me most.”

Generally, Rooftop puts out an interview with the comic to push the release, but with Nathan Timmel penning the article, they got something a little different: Nathan and Scott are old friends, so instead of an interview, a conversation took place.

Rooftop was able to listen in as they waxed nostalgic, fought Nathan’s toddler, and even discussed the new CD.

NT: I suppose we should start with the fact we’ve known one another…

SL: Fifteen years.

NT: Fifteen years… and we met in St. Cloud, Minnesota, at a place that has gone to the comedy graveyard, Rum Runners. And it was around for… well over a decade.

SL: I’m guessing at least two decades.

NT: And the amount of comedians who passed through there over the years…

SL: Oh, yeah. It would be the usual suspects of the Upper Midwest, like Louie Anderson, Tom Arnold, K.P. Anderson… people who came out of that scene, the Minneapolis scene.

NT: Who all probably traveled to Grand Forks, that had a room for years and years. They hired a permanent host, who would move to Grand Forks and live there and host for 6 months to a year, like a comedy boot camp.

SL: My brother did that for ten months, and I think the most successful comic right now who went through that is Chad Daniels.

NT: And for a smaller town, it was a full-week club, Tuesday…

SL: Wednesday through Saturday. The Westward Ho. The owner, Chris, was a huge supporter of comedy. The best poster I’ve ever been on came from there. “Coming Soon” or “This Month…” it was Mitch Hedberg, Todd Barry, Mario Joyner… and me. It was like the Sesame Street “One of these things is not like the other.”

NT: You’re an Iowa native, is this where you started your comedy career?

SL: No… I graduated from the University of Iowa, got a job, didn’t like that, my girlfriend at the time moved to Indianapolis and I followed her… and now she’s my wife. So that worked out. Anyway, I started my comedy career in Indianapolis, and have just stayed there overall.

NT: What number CD is this for you?

SL: It’s kind of a complicated question, because it’s only my second CD, but I put out two DVDs earlier… so DVDs and CDs, it’s my 4th… and I also put out a book in 200… 2? So… that’s kind of where it’s at. But this CD is different from anything before it, because my act has changed, like my life has changed. I have no doubt in my mind this is the best stuff I’ve ever done, because it seems to reach the audience on a couple different levels. I’m always focused on what’s going to make people laugh, but this is more connective. I’ve always been very macro about the world, because my comedy was influenced by Carlin and Hicks, but then having a daughter with autism, and then twins… it really changed my perspective and focus… I don’t think I get bigger laughs than I used to, but I think when the audience leaves I’ve left more of an impression on them. I’ve reached them on a different level.

NT: Well let’s talk about that… I’ve watched you for fifteen years, and your act has changed numerous times… I’ve seen the version you just recorded, and this time around you used visual enhancement on stage, and I’m wondering how you translated that to an audio CD. Answer that as I run to get my daughter out of the dog food…

*leaves as Scott answers*

SL: I wanted to write a whole new show, and I knew that unlike Louie CK or Bill Burr, I couldn’t just show up at a club and start experimenting…

*loud, loud, loud crying erupts*

SL: Is she hurt?

NT: No, she just really wanted the dog’s food, and mean daddy just put up the baby gate. So you can’t show up and start doing new material…

SL: Right. I have to get good reports all the time, so I did the Indy Fringe Fest, where I could do a one-person show and not have to be funny 100% of the time. It was really freeing, and after doing six shows I felt really comfortable taking the more stand-up elements of it on the road.

NT: And when I saw you, you were using an easel to show the different acts in the performance, and I was wondering how that translated to a disc…

SL: Right, right… it’s gone. I used that for about a year, but after getting to know the material inside and out I brought it back to pure stand up comedy. I enjoyed the “art” aspect to it, the “one-man-show” concept, but with that you’re talking at people, and I wanted to re-incorporate interacting with the audience. I actually hadn’t even planned on recording the CD when I did, to be honest. Rooftop had recorded my shows, and I was watching their videos and Dominic [from Rooftop] contacted me and said, “I think we could make a CD out of this. I think we could make a great CD out of this.” I said, “Really, you could make a CD out of video clips?” So he sent me some of the audio and it sounded fantastic. Better than some of the things I’ve heard on satellite radio…

NT: Oh, I’ve heard some awful things played by people who said, “I spent $2,000 on a sound engineer…”

SL: Right. And in the end I was really happy with the way things turned out.

NT: I want to go back a second to something you said at the outset of developing the act, an inability to do too much new material at a club because you need good reports… I don’t know if casual fans of comedy will know what that means. They might think comics get graded on originality, or if a club sees you’re constantly writing…

SL: The art. The craft. You’re not getting graded on the art of stand up comedy.

NT: I asked an owner once, “What are you looking for out of me?” and was told, “I just listen for laughter; I don’t have time to listen to what you’re saying.” Which really told me where I stood, and that weekend the opening act went up and did the most base, “Hey, who’s drinking tonight, Taco Bell makes you poop” material that you’ve heard a million times, but it didn’t matter because the audience liked it… So in your case, the owner wouldn’t be thinking, “Oh, Scott is bringing new material to my club, he’s working shit out,” they’d think “I don’t hear enough laughter, he’s not coming back.”

SL: And I’ve been doing this a long time, and some of these venues I’ve been to five or six times, which might make you think you’ve earned enough cache with these people to work out material like that, but that’s just not how it works. And look, part of that is on me. If I could sell enough tickets, sell out every show for $25, then would the owner care what the audience sounded like? They’d know people were there to see you.

NT: And I don’t want to make it seem like it’s not our job to get laughter, because it absolutely is, but you’d think that after a few visits you’d get some leeway, but it really can come down to one bad show preventing you from getting invited back.

SL: Which is a big reason why so many comics who have been in the business for a long time don’t really do anything new. They’re afraid; they know what they do works. And the other element of that is that pressure of knowing you have to do well… it really is a “What have you done for me lately business?”

NT: I remember a club owner who isn’t around anymore who would dictate exactly what the comedian was supposed to do to them. If someone showed up with a new closer, he would tell them to do the one he liked.

SL: Look, you really are a dancing monkey unless you can draw, and that’s the one part to this business I’ve never been bitter about. I’ve made certain decisions in my career not to be a Los Angeles or New York comic…

NT: I remember that. You had specific management interested in you, but…

SL: This was one of the most stand up agents in the country at the time, one of the most powerful, and he was legitimately interested in me… as long as I moved to LA. And I couldn’t disagree with anything he said, I get it, but I couldn’t do it. Stand up comedy, entertainment in general is a “me first” business. Everything has got to be “me,” and pushing me out there… but that’s what the new CD is about. I’m a dad, and I have to put my kids first, and it was a quality of life decision. Did I want to raise my kids in New York or LA, or did I want to raise them in the Midwest, where I was raised.

NT: Do you have trouble doing predominantly family-oriented material in front of varied audiences?

SL: No, because I’m not—and no disrespect to these people at all—I’m not doing Ray Romano or Bill Cosby family material. I still have these neurosis, these inappropriate thoughts that I use to write jokes, and that way people who have no kids can still relate to my act.

NT: One of the best compliments I got after a show was when a 21-year-old kid came up to me and said, “I don’t have a kid, I’m not married, and you didn’t talk about anything in my world… but I really loved your set. You were hilarious.” Which made me happy that I was presenting my point of view in a way that was universal, not demographically challenged, to use politically correct language.

SL: Exactly. I mean, I’m very cognizant of trying to stay relevant to the youngest people in the audience. I’m not going to talk about Justin Bieber or Katy Perry and pander, but I do have the thought, “What would twenty-five-year-old Scott think of this joke?” Because ultimately I want everyone to relate to my jokes. I’m not one of those guys who says, “Oh, fuck twenty percent of the audience.” I want the old guy and the hipster to relate to me.

 

Download Scott’s disc, Good Dad, Not a Great Dad, now.

Go Home Happy: The Serious Side of Comedy

nathan timmel Go Home Happy” width=“You’re a comedian? That must be awesome!”

It’s a familiar response from people who’ve just met someone that calls comedy their full-time job.

On the surface, it’s glamorous: laughter, bright spotlights, and traveling the world. But like sausage-making, the real action is far from pretty. What goes unseen is the struggle undertaken by comedians to perform on that stage.

In his new mini-eBook, Go Home Happy, stand-up veteran and Rooftop contributing blogger Nathan Timmel leads the reader through a funny, pride-swallowing journey navigating the minefield of club owners, booking agents, drunken hecklers, and unexpected friends.

Part fun and games, part sobering insight, Go Home Happy takes the stand-up comedy fan behind Oz’s curtain to reveal the tedious struggles—and rewarding moments—that come with this spotlighted territory.

Here’s an excerpt:

When people cannot handle a particular performer or joke, they sometimes feel the need to offer their opinions loudly, and in the middle of a show. Hecklers, as they are known. These people are instant critics. Hecklers have something to say, and in an age of Twitter and Facebook updates they can share feelings instantly and constantly. They forget what discretion is and demand their opinion be heard, even if it is in direct opposition to the 200 audience members surrounding them, people who happen to be enjoying themselves.

The most odd moments of my act bring out objection in people. Three of the strangest events are:

  • Upon the birth of my daughter, I commented on the fact I’d rather have a gay child than one with a food allergy. I happen to love peanut butter, and I’ve always been a friend to the gay community, so I’d rather my daughter be attracted to the same gender than have to give up my vice. Because of that statement, a woman handed in a note stating their son had a food allergy and that she didn’t find my thoughts on the subject funny in the slightest.
  • After visiting Iraq and performing for American soldiers stationed in a dangerous war zone, I made the suggestion that to keep the people we care about safe—our mothers and fathers, sons and daughters in uniform—we should bring them home and use prisoners and gang members to fight our wars. My specific punchline was: “If they win, great. If they lose, fuck it, great! Either way, no one we care about gets hurt.” From the back of one comedy club, “Prisoners have rights too, asshole!” was shouted and an angry man stormed out. The crowd was stunned; someone was defending murderers and rapists at the expense of the American military?
  • While in the middle of a pro-immigration joke, I was interrupted by a Hispanic woman who began shouting that immigrants were hard-working people, and didn’t deserve to be made fun of. When I pointed out that I had just said exactly that, and that I was making fun of racists who believed otherwise, she went on a five-minute tirade about how wrong it was of me to be talking about immigration when immigrants built America. We were on the same side of the issue, yet she was too drunk (or dim) to understand that. I could barely get a word in edgewise as she babbled on incoherently.

The worst thing about people who cry “Offensive!” at any given topic, is they are generally only offended by their one, personal pet fetish. A comedian can say what they want about any subject, as long as it isn’t the one that “hits too close to home.”

Look at the movie Ted, for example. If you are unfamiliar, it’s a film by Seth MacFarlane, creator of the television show Family Guy. The humor is politically incorrect to say the least, and lewd, rude, and crude to say the most. I loved the movie and laughed to the point of tears throughout it. The film contained jokes about religion, gender roles, drug use, 9/11, and of course, one line involving Lou Gehrig’s disease. In a complaint that made national news, a patron with ALS stated he was enjoying himself up to the point Marky Mark’s character wished the disease upon Joel McHale, but that particular line went “too far.”

Examine that thought process: the man wasn’t upset by jokes about race, religion, 9/11, or homosexuality, because they didn’t apply to him. But when a joke invaded his personal space it was suddenly over the line. Hypocritical? Absolutely. But rarely do people take a moment to scrutinize the whole of any situation; they only understand what angers them, because that’s all that matters.

 

Want more?

Purchase your own copy now.

(It’s only 99-cents)

 

Adam Hammer: Where he has been


A few weeks ago my co-worker, Dominic Del Bene,  pointed me to a blog post from AdamHammer.com entitled “Where the F*CK have I been???” It’s a good idea to read that first. In it, Adam explains that in 2012, his father went to jail for lewd and lascivious acts with a minor(“some To Catch a Predator type stuff”) where he died.  Dealing with the family crisis sent his personal life and career into a tailspin. Depression, alcohol, rage…Not a good combination.   I couldn’t believe how raw the story and writing was. It was like getting pounded in a bare knuckle fight and left me feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me. Brutal. It was so crazy that I wanted to know more about the story and how these events have effected Adam’s stand-up and he was gracious enough to answer my questions.

 

Before the Q/A I wanted to start with something Adam included in an email towards the beginning of our correspondence.

“I should probably mention that I’m so open and honest about this stuff because of Robert Schimmel. I toured with him for a couple of years and the way he got through losing a son to cancer, a messy divorce, his own cancer and all the other shit that happened to him was to talk about it and not seek sympathy, but laughs. It feels better to have people laughing with you than telling you they’re sorry. Unfortunately, that comes with a risk of sounding calloused. The only way to find other people who may have gone through something similar is to talk about it. And just hearing you’re not alone is therapeutic in itself.”

Gotta love Robert Schimmel.

RC(Rooftop Comedy): Did you do jokes about your father before all this happened? What were they
like?

Yes. Sort of. Here’s a video:

 

RC: How did his role in your life shape your comedy?

-I learned what wasn’t funny from him and did the opposite. My uncles taught me how to make people laugh. My dad wasn’t funny. He tried and failed miserably. The over-parenting I got shaped my rebellion. Which in turn shaped my pursuit of comedy. Only because I never had the patience to learn an instrument. I was never destined to have a desk job.

RC: Are you afraid that your new bits about your father are too dark?

-No. I’m afraid they aren’t worked out enough. I need to make sure I’m making jokes, not getting therapy. There’s no such thing as too dark. And my bits aren’t dark, they’re honest. They’re uncomfortable, but the people that get it, get it.

RC: Do you think this will forever color your comedy in a certain way?

-Which color? Blue? My jokes have colored me blue long before this. I’ve always taken a “question the answers” approach in my joke writing. For over a decade I’ve talked about the positives of drug use, how drunk drivers are safer than sober drivers (67% of all fatal car accidents are caused by sober people), how deadbeat dads don’t get enough credit for giving us great men, how my plan if I get cancer is to run up a massive credit card bill then go to jail. I try to challenge conventional thinking. I think this subject matter falls in line. Not a lot of comics can find the funny in molestation accusations. It’s all just a challenge for me.

RC: Why do you think it’s important to talk about this on stage?

-I think comedy is a great way to find people with common experiences. Like, I didn’t know any other kids tried putting leaves on a broken bone until I heard Brian Regan do a bit about it. That was great. I don’t think anything is important to talk about on stage though. We’re entertainers. Not artists. Not politicians. I just can’t come up with anything as funny as Brian Regan’s leaf bit. So I make jokes about my dead gay dad.

RC: You mentioned on your blog that these events put your comedy career into a
nose dive. Were you ever close to quitting?

-Not quitting. Just grasping at straws. I was on a pretty steady upward trajectory before this shit went down. Then, my momentum drastically changed. I can’t quit. I may never make it. But I can’t quit. It’s been 13 years since I started. Close to 7 since I’ve had a day job. Not only do I not want to quit, I can’t. Try explaining a 7 year gap on your resume when you’re applying for a square job. I got to the point of applying for jobs last year before I had a project come through. Delivery driver jobs and shit. I have a college degree and that’s the only interview I got. The way that I got in the room is that all my cover letter said was “I have a clean driving record. I’ve never been in jail, and I speak English. I’d love to meet you for an interview.” After sending out at least a hundred letters, that’s the one that got me in the room. Luckily I picked up a writing/producing gig and didn’t have to deliver fish.

 

RC: What advice do you have for comics coping with a personal struggle?

I’m not religious or involved in any 12 step programs but I was dragged into them when I was a teenager and there is one good thing I picked up: accept the things you cannot change. Change the things you can. Have the wisdom to know the difference. Also, save your money. Always save your money. Even if you’re not going through anything draining, save your money. You’re gonna need it.

 

To keep up with all things Adam Hammer:

Follow him on twitter @AdamHammer